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Reading between the lines: the role discourse in shaping responses to safeguarding older people

Diane Galpin (Lecturer, based at Social Work Team, Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 2 December 2014




The purpose of this paper is to report on findings from research into the role of language and discourse in shaping responses to older people at risk of abuse in England. Critical discourse analysis is used in this research to deconstruct policy to identify hidden meaning.


The study comprised of a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the coalition governments underpinning policy statement outlining its approach to safeguarding adults in “A Vision for Adult Social Care: Capable Communities and Active Citizens.


This paper analyses the policy statement in some detail to explore its ability to guide practice in supporting older people at risk of harm. The results suggest ideological, philosophical and economic discourses underpinning policy may promote “Big Society” rather than address the abuse of older people, and that this might leave some older people vulnerable and at risk.

Research limitations/implications

It is acknowledged the qualitative approach of CDA has its limitations as issues of subjectivity and interpretation exist. Fallibility is always present and no research can give a “complete” view of the world.

Practical implications

Drawing on this analysis may provide a heightened awareness of the use of discourse to expose potentially hidden motivations in others, and ourselves, by seeking out the ideological, philosophical and theoretical hiding places which enable specific discourses to become taken for granted.

Social implications

By identifying the taken for grantedness of some discourses in everyday life, the author can gain a better understanding of how to challenge the status quo.


This paper explores practice in safeguarding adults from an ideological, economic and philosophical perspective.



Galpin, D. (2014), "Reading between the lines: the role discourse in shaping responses to safeguarding older people", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 16 No. 6, pp. 399-410.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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